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Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina's Fate (PC) artwork

Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina's Fate (PC) review

"Despite a couple of hiccups, Return to Mysterious Island 2 does enough of the important things right to deliver a unique and slightly nostalgic experience, and is sufficiently different from its older sibling to justify its place on the fence between Sequel and Expansion."

What do a haphazardly-made clay vase, a handful of palm seeds, and a recently caught crustacean have in common? They can all be used to make a tasty pie.

But for would-be Lost cast member Mina, a lack of delicious pastries is not the highest of her concerns. Return to Mysterious Island saw this aspiring sailor's voyage round the world cut short, and found her instead washed up on the shores of a Mysterious Island - and island that turned out to be the cozy tropical resting place of none other than Captain Nemo. Armed only with her wits and a monkey named Jep, out intrepid heroine braved hordes of riddles and inventory-based puzzles before she could finally call for help from the outside world and escape via helicopter...or so we thought. As it turns out, the island volcano chose that exact moment to erupt and spew chunks of rock into the air, which had unfortunate consequences for a certain rescue helicopter that just happened to be traversing that same air. Thankfully, little Jep manages to free his companion from the sinking wreckage of the helicopter and nudge her to safety.

So, strictly speaking it's not so much a Return to Mysterious Island . It'd be more accurate to call it "Failure to Escape from Mysterious Island - doubly so, since this sequel almost has the look of an expansion to it. Explorers wary of trudging through the same locales as the last game, though, need not fear the horned beast of Repetition here, Mysterious Island 2's trailblazing takes place mostly in parts of the island Mina missed the last time through, and the handful of familiar locations are sufficiently changed by volcanic upheavals to seem new again.

Just like in the last game, Mina's island exploration is facilitated through a first-person hotspot style akin to Myst or Starship Titanic but with a more modern twist; clicking on doorways or paths or bridges loads the next hotspot, from which you've a full 360-degrees of mouse freedom to survey your surroundings. You don't have to be a rabid Jules Verne fanatic to appreciate the sense of atmosphere (good news for me, because I only ever read halfway through 20,000 Leagues); each of the game's hotspots are beautifully rendered and immaculately detailed, right down to the ants on a recently-killed boar carcass. But hey, don't get distracted by the scenery; you've still got an island to save.

Veterans of the Sierra age of point-and-click adventures will recognize the style of puzzles to be solved. Obstacles are overcome or circumvented through clever application of whatever trinkets, knickknacks, and useless junk you've accumulated so far in your quest. If you're stuck, be prepared to backtrack and pick up whatever isn't nailed down, trying your best to scoff at the stereotype that adventure game heroes are all rampant kleptomaniacs.

But as much as I adore the paranoid-kleptomaniac mode of puzzle solving (grew up playing Space Quest, remember?), Mysterious Island 2 unfortunately blunders into the biggest pitfall of the genre, and some of its inventory puzzles are little more than pixel hunts - notably, a sequence early in the game where Jep must navigate a muddy river by testing the depth with a bamboo stick, with no visual cues as to where or how big areas of shallow water are save methodically dipping the stick into the river - the animation for which feels like it takes way too much time. Another hurdle is the "energy gauge" possessed by each character - occasionally progression will require that the gauge be fully recharged so that either character has enough energy to drag the plot forward. At first this amounts to grabbing edible things wherever you can find them, but it soon becomes apparent that Mina is a very picky eater.

Will: "Okay Mina, eat this raw egg."
Mina: *gains +5 energy*
Will: "Good, now eat this other raw egg."
Mina: "I've already had that, I want something else."
Will: "Okay, here's an orange."
Mina: "Nope, ate one of those already too."
Will: "That was half an hour and several juicy, ripe fruit ago!"
Mina: "I refuse to eat more than one of certain things."
Jep: *agreeable monkey noises*
Will: "You're marooned on an island in the middle of the ocean and in danger of starving to death, and you honestly care what you're eating?"

Luckily delicious baked goods like the seafood pie, while much more complicated to make, are extremely filling. They have the side effect of making me hungry, however.

Aside from lunch, you'll be required to construct a fishing pole, treat a leg wound with carnivorous ants, build several fires, rebuild a sawmill and improvise a weapon from a bamboo stick and a hornet's nest, all within the opening half-hour of play. To further complicate matters, Mina's primate pal Jep can now scamper off on his own under player control, squeezing into tight spaces or climbing over obstacles that Mina can't circumvent on her own. Just be sure to throw together bizarre combination of items beforehand, as Jep is incapable of building them on his own.

Hey, cut him some slack. He's just a monkey.

Despite a couple of hiccups, Return to Mysterious Island 2 does enough of the important things right to deliver a unique and slightly nostalgic experience, and is sufficiently different from its older sibling to justify its place on the fence between Sequel and Expansion. It's enough to make me wonder why point-and-click adventure titles like it are so very rare these days.


WilltheGreat's avatar
Freelance review by Will Roy (December 12, 2009)

Will is grumpy, sarcastic and Canadian. He occasionally crawls out of his igloo to cover sci-fi and strategy games. Has a love-hate relationship with cats. And the colour purple.

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